President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and named CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him, the White House announced early Tuesday.
Trump tweeted out the news at 8:44 a.m. “Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
Tillerson reportedly only found out that he was fired from the president’s tweet, and was not formally notified beforehand.
Haspel, Trump’s choice to replace Pompeo, was previously the deputy director of the CIA.
In a statement issued to the Washington Post, Trump said, “I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State. Mike graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the U.S. Army, and graduated with Honors from Harvard Law School. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives with a proven record of working across the aisle.”
The statement added that “Gina Haspel, the Deputy Director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Director Pompeo and she will be the CIA’s first-ever female director, a historic milestone. Mike and Gina have worked together for more than a year, and have developed a great mutual respect.”
Pompeo released a statement of his own:
I am deeply grateful to President Trump for permitting me to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and for this opportunity to serve as Secretary of State. His leadership has made America safer and I look forward to representing him and the American people to the rest of the world to further America’s prosperity. Serving alongside the great men and women of the CIA, the most dedicated and talented public servants I have encountered, has been one of the great honors of my life.
Tillerson and Trump have had some trouble in the past. On Oct. 4, NBC News broke a story claiming that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron” during a meeting at the Pentagon. A few days later, Trump responded to Forbes on this topic: "I think it's fake news, but if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win." Trump has also accused Tillerson of being too “establishment.”
Citing three anonymous White House officials, the Washington Post reports that Trump “felt it was important to make the change now, as he prepares for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as upcoming trade negotiations.”
Tillerson and the president have disagreed about how to handle the North Korean situation. After Tillerson told reporters that he was working on starting communication between North Korea and the United States, Trump tweeted “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man...” adding in a follow up tweet, “...Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!”
Reportedly, this tweet storm came after South Korean President Moon Jae-in called the White House to complain about Tillerson’s statement.
State Department Under Secretary Steve Goldstein said in a statement: “The Secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security. He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and the foreign ministers he has worked with throughout the world. The secretary did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason.”
Trump’s own statement to reporters Tuesday morning painted a much rosier picture than Goldstein's did.
“Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. We got along, actually, quite well, but we disagreed on things," Trump said. "When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible, I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well.”
Trump then went on to praise Tillerson's "commitment and his service" as secretary of state.
"I think Rex [Tillerson] will be much happier now. But I appreciate his service. But with Mike [Pompeo] we’ve had a very good chemistry right from the beginning," Pres. Trump says on sudden firing of Tillerson, who will be replaced by Pompeo as Secretary of State. pic.twitter.com/KJw77YxNdW
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 13, 2018
On Dec. 1, Trump in a tweet dismissed claims that Tillerson would soon be on the way out. “The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon - FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!”
This is a developing story and has been updated.